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Can Thyroid Nodules Cause Weight Gain

What Are Thyroid Nodules

What Causes Thyroid Weight Gain? (And How to Fix it for Weight Loss)

Thyroid nodules are growths in the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland releases thyroid hormone, which regulates many of your bodys functions, including metabolism.

Thyroid nodules are very common in adults, and more than 70% of Americans over the age of 70 will have at least one. Most nodules are noncancerous , but some can be cancerous. Thyroid nodules are less common in children and teens, but, if a child or a teen has a nodule, it is more likely to be malignant .

There are several types of thyroid nodules:

  • Colloid nodules are benign buildups of thyroid cells.
  • Follicular adenomas are also benign.
  • Thyroid cysts are balloon-like growths inside of your thyroid gland that are filled with fluid. They are almost never cancerous.
  • Thyroid cancers can appear similar to any of the other types of thyroid nodules. An ultrasound and, sometimes, a biopsy are important to determine if a nodule is malignant.

Some nodules may affect the hormones produced by the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism .

What Is The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroids job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

What Do They Do For A Benign Thyroid Nodule

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  • Seaweed: It’s rich in iodine, which your thyroid needs to work properly.
  • Eggs: They’ve got iodine and selenium, another nutrient that helps regulate thyroid hormones.
  • Yogurt: Dairy is also a good source of iodine.
  • Chicken or beef: Meats are a good source of zinc, another key thyroid nutrient.

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What The Thyroid Gland Does

To understand why some types of goiter develop, it is first important to know what the normal function of the thyroid gland is and how it is regulated. The thyroid gland makes and releases into blood two small chemicals, called thyroid hormones: thyroxine and triiodothyronine . Each of them is comprised of a pair of connected tyrosine amino acids to which four or three iodine molecules, respectively, are attached.

The iodine needed for thyroid hormone production comes from our diet in seafood, dairy products, store bought bread, and iodized salt. Once absorbed, iodine in blood is trapped by a special pump in thyroid cells, called the sodium-iodide symporter. The thyroid also has several specialized biochemical ‘fastening machines,’ called enzymes, that then carry out the steps needed to attach iodine to particular parts of a very big protein called thyroglobulin, which is made only by thyroid cells.

Some of this thyroglobulin with iodine molecules attached is stored in the gland in the form of a gooey paste called colloid, which is normally located in the center of follicles, which are balls of thyroid cells with a hollow center.

Lab Testing & Ultrasound Testing

Weight Gain And Thyroid Cancer ... Kind Csabooster

If you have a known thyroid nodule, or if you suspect a thyroid nodule, then the next step is to undergo testing.

Testing, in this case, takes the form of 2 different modalities:

The first is lab testing which helps to assess how well your thyroid is working.

And the second is to directly assess the thyroid itself through ultrasound imaging.

Thyroid lab tests give you an idea of how responsive your thyroid gland is and if your thyroid nodule is causing any impairment in the ability of your gland to produce thyroid hormone.

Thyroid ultrasound, on the other hand, will directly image the thyroid gland and give you key information about the size and other characteristics of your nodule and thyroid tissue .

These characteristics are important because they can help your doctor determine if your nodule look suspicious or if you are at increased risk for thyroid cancer.

If your nodule looks suspicious on thyroid ultrasound then your Doctor will likely order a fine needle aspiration .

FNA is the best way to determine if your nodule is cancerous and if it needs to be removed, but not everyone should get an FNA unless absolutely necessary.

The reason is that up to 25% of all FNA biopsy results come back as “indeterminate” which means it could be cancer or it could be benign, it’s medical terminology for “I’m not sure”.

Having an indeterminate result on your biopsy can be stressful and may require further imaging studies and biopsies over time.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism

At first, you might not notice the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms usually begin slowly. But, over time, a faster metabolism can cause symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food
  • Eating more than usual
  • Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
  • Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
  • Changes in your eyes that can include bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation

Hyperthyroidism raises your risk for , a condition that causes weak bones that break easily. In fact, hyperthyroidism might affect your bones before you have any of the other symptoms of the condition. This is especially true of women who have gone through menopause or who are already at high risk of osteoporosis.

Causes Of Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules, masses in the thyroid gland, can be the result of benign cell overgrowth or actual discrete tumors comprised of thyroid cells that can be benign or cancerous. Thyroid nodules can sometimes contain fluid, which usually collects due to bleeding from the fragile blood vessels in thyroid tumors, so called cystic degeneration. This event sometimes causes the sudden onset of pain and swelling in the front of the neck, which typically subsides over several days.

Fortunately, more than 90% of thyroid nodules are not cancers, but malignancy should be considered in every affected person. Often patients with small thyroid nodules, less than 1 cm in diameter, and no risk factors for thyroid cancer can simply be reexamined or imaged by sonography to be sure the nodule is not enlarging. For larger nodules, additional studies are usually indicated, as described below.

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Hypothyroidism And Weight Gain Explained

Does hypothyroidism actually lead to weight gain?

The question seems so simple if you have hypothyroidism because no doubt you probably experienced “unexplained” weight gain as one of your main symptoms.

But if hypothyroidism leads to weight gain then why don’t you lose weight when you start thyroid medication?

Doesn’t it make sense that if your weight was due to low thyroid that replacing that thyroid would result in some lost weight?

This happens with pretty much everything else in medicine.

If you have high blood pressure and you take blood pressure medication then your blood pressure will return to normal.

The same is true with cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.

But not the thyroid.

Let’s just think about it for a minute…

From a logical standpoint several things may be at play here:

1) You are not getting enough thyroid hormone or you are being undertreated:

If you follow the logic above that low thyroid leads to weight gain, then maybe you aren’t getting enough thyroid hormone in your medication.

This turns out to be true especially if your Doctor is treating you by your TSH alone .

You can read more about why the TSH is not the best marker for assessing thyroid function in this post.

But let’s assume that you are getting enough thyroid hormone replacement.

How then can you explain your weight gain and inability to lose weight?

2) Maybe your weight gain wasn’t due to your thyroid but a consequence of low thyroid hormone in the body:

And this is so far from the truth.

What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroiditis

Thyroid Nodules, Cancers & Treatment

The symptoms of thyroiditis depend on whether the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood are too high or too low .

Good to know: Some of the symptoms may occur in both hyper- and hypothyroidism. If you think that you might have signs of a thyroid disorder, try using the Ada app to find out more about your symptoms.

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How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated

Treatment depends on the type of thyroid nodule. Treatment options include:

  • No treatment/”watchful waiting.” If the nodules are not cancerous, you and your doctor may decide that you dont need to be treated at this time. You will see your doctor on a regular basis so he or she can watch for any changes in the nodules.
  • Radioactive iodine. Your doctor may use radioactive iodine to treat hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules and goiters with several nodules. The radioactive iodine is absorbed into the thyroid gland, causing the nodules to shrink. Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant should not have this treatment.
  • Surgery. Surgery to take out the nodules is the best treatment for nodules that are cancerous, cause “obstructive symptoms” , and are suspicious .

What Prompts Hyperthyroid Related Weight Gain

“This woman had developed thyroid storm,” says Kristien Boelaert, MD, PhD, associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and senior author of a new study focusing on weight gain after treatment for hyperthyroidism. Thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition in which body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure often rise to dangerous levels.

These symptoms arose in June, landing her in the intensive care unit, Dr. Boelaert says, and required urgent medical attention. Just like this patient, many people are tempted to stop taking their antithyroid therapy with of the hope of lessening the weight gain, she says, and for those who do, the result is even worse medical complications.

In recognizing this common scenario, Dr. Boelaert and her colleagues were compelled to study the issueexactly how much weight people typicaly gain while being treated for hyperthyroidismand report their findings in the journal Thyroid.1

Dr. Boelaerts team found that many people do indeed gain weight, with some developing obesity. The data gathered from this study puts concrete numbers to this adverse effect of hyperthyroid treatment. Simple awareness of how common excess weight gain may be can be a big relief for patients, Dr. Boelaert tells EndocrineWeb knowing that weight gain can occur means patients can take proactive steps to anticipate the problem and lessen the result.

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How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated

The main treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery to take out the whole thyroid gland or as much of it as can be safely removed. Surgery alone can cure thyroid cancer if the cancer is small and has not yet spread to lymph nodes.

Your doctor may also use radioiodine therapy after surgery. Radioiodine therapy destroys any thyroid cancer cells that were not removed during surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor may also talk with you about other treatments for thyroid cancer. Learn more about thyroid cancer treatments at the National Cancer Institute.

What Kind Of Follow

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You will see your childs endocrinologist and head and neck surgeon one week after surgery. Expect to have labs done to assess calcium levels. Thyroid function labs will be drawn four weeks after surgery. Depending on the pathology, additional imaging may be obtained to see if radioactive iodine is needed. Some types of thyroid cancer will require regular blood work screening and scheduled ultrasounds.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/30/2018.


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Frank Discussion About Weight Changes And Heart Disease Risk Needed

Awareness of the tendency for weight gain is the first crucial step for every patient with hyperthyroidism, Dr. Boelaert says. She says doctors should be more forthcoming about the probability of weight gain but that patients should be prepared to discuss it and insist it become part of your care plan.

“I tell patients, ‘When I make you better, I expect that you will gain weight. The evidence is that probably you will gain more than you lost.” So know this, and advocate for clear guidance on what you can change to slow any inevitable weight gain and to prevent exceeding your usual, healthy weight.

Dr. Boelaert found slightly more higher net weight gain in her patients who had radioactive iodine therapy than drugs alone, but she doesnt think this side effect should not steer people away from having RAI treatment since the cure is much higher with this treatment, she says.

She notices that the patients who do adopt a healthier lifestyle, if they werent already following a heart healthy diet and getting daily physical activity, when she first met them, can curtail the otherwise likely excess weight gain.

“Having an overactive thyroid is not a benign disease,” she tells her patients. Treatment is crucial and so is keeping an eye on your weight as the treatment process progresses.

Neither Dr. Boelaert nor Dr. Srinath have any disclosures.

What Are The Risk Factors For Thyroid Nodules

Risk factors for developing thyroid nodules include:

  • Family history. Having parents or siblings who have had thyroid nodules or thyroid or other endocrine cancers increases your chance of developing nodules.
  • Age: The chance of developing nodules increases as you get older.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid nodules.
  • Radiation exposure: A history of radiation exposure to the head and neck increases your risk of developing nodules.

Risk factors for developing cancerous thyroid nodules include:

  • Family history of thyroid cancer
  • A nodule that is hard or is stuck to a nearby structure
  • Male gender

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Other Causes Of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can also result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps that develop inside the thyroid and sometimes begin producing thyroid hormones. Large lumps may create a noticeable goiter. Smaller lumps can be detected with ultrasound. A thyroid uptake and scan can tell if the lump is producing too much thyroid hormone.

The Endocrine System The Thyroid Gland And Metabolism

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The Thyroid Gland is situated in your throat, and is part of the bodys endocrine system. The endocrine system involves numerous glands and organs that produce hormones. These hormones are, in turn, used to activate other parts of the body.

Some hormones activate glands that produce other hormones, while certain hormones, such as those produced and secreted by the Thyroid Gland, has a role to play in certain bodily functions.

The Thyroid Gland is stimulated by Thyroid Stimulating Hormones, which is secreted by the Pituitary Gland, located in your brain2.

When the Pituitary Gland releases thyroid Stimulating Hormones, they are sent toward the Thyroid, a Gland that has a shape that resembles a butterfly. In turn, the Thyroid Gland responds by producing and secreting Thyroid Hormones into the bloodstream.

The main hormones produced by the Thyroid Gland include Triiodothyronine and Tetraiodothyronine3. These are commonly also simply referred to as T3 and T4. T4 hormones are sometimes called Thyroxine. In addition to these hormones, another hormone produced by the Thyroid Gland is called Calcitonin.

Only approximately 20% of the hormones produced by the Thyroid gland are T3 hormones, while the rest primarily consist of T4 hormones. T3 hormones are, however, more potent and useful to the body than T4 hormones4.

These hormones assist with the metabolic functions of every single cell within the human body and also plays a vital part in how the body uses energy.

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How Is A Thyroid Nodule Evaluated And Diagnosed

Once the nodule is discovered, your doctor will try to determine whether the rest of your thyroid is healthy or whether the entire thyroid gland has been affected by a more general condition such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Your physician will feel the thyroid to see whether the entire gland is enlarged and whether a single or multiple nodules are present. The initial laboratory tests may include measurement of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone in your blood to determine whether your thyroid is functioning normally.

Since its usually not possible to determine whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous by physical examination and blood tests alone, the evaluation of the thyroid nodules often includes specialized tests such as thyroid ultrasonography and fine needle biopsy.

The report of a thyroid fine needle biopsy will usually indicate one of the following findings:

  • The nodule is benign .
    • This result is obtained in up to 80% of biopsies. The risk of overlooking a cancer when the biopsy is benign is generally less than 3 in 100 tests or 3%. This is even lower when the biopsy is reviewed by an experienced pathologist at a major medical center. Generally, benign thyroid nodules do not need to be removed unless they are causing symptoms like choking or difficulty swallowing. Follow up ultrasound exams are important. Occasionally, another biopsy may be required in the future, especially if the nodule grows over time.


    Why Does Levothyroxine And Synthroid Cause Weight Gain

    Before we talk about how Levothyroxine and Synthroid can cause weight gain we need to talk about some basic thyroid physiology. Your thyroid, under the influence of TSH , pumps out primarily the thyroid hormone T4.

    Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive in other words, its not producing enough thyroxin . Thyroxin is a vital hormone that assists in almost all metabolic processes in a dogs body. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is a very common disease among dogs, including the Pomeranian.

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    What Are The Risks Of Removing The Thyroid Gland

    Behind your childs thyroid gland runs the recurrent laryngeal nerves that help to move the vocal folds and the parathyroid glands which help regulate their bodys calcium levels.

    Some of the major risk factors following the removal of the thyroid gland are:

    • A hoarse/breathy voice.
    • Low calcium levels.

    After surgery your child will need to take a medication to supplement the thyroid function and in some cases a medication to keep calcium levels elevated.

    Other risk factors include:

    • A scar on the neck.
    • Bleeding.
    • Fluid collection under the skin.
    • The need for future procedures such as removal of the lymph nodes from the neck.


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